A Fun Way to Teach Kids – Using Booboos

This article describes a “fun” approach to teaching kids in general and kendo specifically.  It is an approach that I use from time to time that seems quite effective.

In essence, the idea is to teach by way of showing not only how to do something but also how not to do something.  I use the following steps:

  1. Show how to do something correctly.
  2. Then deliberately make a booboo by doing something incorrectly.
  3. Check if the kids can identify what was done wrong and
  4. Have each kid take a turn on deliberately making and demonstrating a booboo that the other kids will try to identify.

This approach can be used for teaching a variety of movements, positions or actions (e.g. aisatsu, kamae, sonkyo, suri-ashi, men-uchi,…).  Let’s walk through a specific example, teaching kamae, to illustrate the approach.  Note that this one is a bit involved and the other ones tend to be less involved.   Here’s a sample set of steps:

  1. Teach and show the children kamae:  starting from the feet position (the direction they point, the weight distribution, the slight elevation of the heels), the hips facing forward, the shinai grip, the positioning of the shinai, the relaxed shoulders, elbows, the posture,…
    1. Then, in a round-robin fashion, I ask each child to verbally echo one important aspect of the kamae.
  2. Next, I explain that I will show them the kamae again but will deliberately do one thing incorrectly and that their job is to identify what I am doing wrong.
    1. The first few may be obvious and then they may become progressively more difficult.  For example:
      1. Easier ones:  Standing on one foot, sticking my neck and head forward or pointing my shinai to the sky, one eye closed, feet pointed in different directions like a penguin,…  These usually illicit laughter.
      2. Harder ones:  left and right hand switched on the shinai, left and right feet positions switched, heels on the ground, tight shoulders,…  The kids seem to enjoy the challenge.
  3. Then I ask each kid to demonstrate the technique with a booboo and have the other kids try to identify what was done wrong.
    1. Some of the demonstrated booboos are quite funny (e.g. the bum sticking out).
    2. Some of the demonstrated booboos are tough to spot and the kids need to be very sharp. 

There are several aspects to this approach that the kids seem to enjoy:  The permission to do something “incorrectly” in a safe manner,  the challenge in identifying the booboo and their chance for attention and leading the learning experience.   It as like learning without realizing that we are learning  😉


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